I’ve just heard about this recently but you might know this already: some of the MTR stations had names that were different in English and Chinese. They were changed, to avoid any confusion.
Yau Ma Tei was Waterloo, because it was on the corner of Waterloo Road. Mong Kok was Argyle for a similar reason. But this caused confusion because local people did not know where Waterloo or Argyle Stations were and English speakers never heard of Yau Ma Tei or Mong Kok.
Eventually the Chinese names prevailed. Strangely, Mong Kok was originally Wong Kok in Cantonese: apparently the man hanging the sign turned the W upside down!
Some stations have Chinese names that sound similar. For instance, Jordan is pronounced ‘Jaw Dun’ in Cantonese, similar to the English sound. Other stations have a Chinese name that conveys the same meaning, for example, ‘Prince Edward’ is ‘Tai Ji’ which means ‘Crown Prince’.
I found a documentary from 1979 that describes Hong Kong’s brand new MTR system and how to use it on YouTube. It’s in Chinese, but the pictures speak for themselves.
Here is a quick synopsis:
0:01 – footage of heavy traffic in Hong Kong
1:00 – overview of the new MTR network
1:40 – MTR train departing a station
1:45 – cab footage of a citybound train departing Kwun Tong station
2:00 – a look inside the MTR control room
2:25 – more cab footage
3:58 – a look at the original station entrances and concourses
4:30 – how to buy tickets from the automated vending machines
5:00 – using the turnstiles to enter the platform
5:30 – how to find your platform
6:00 – make sure you stand behind the yellow line
6:30 – more cab footage inside the tunnels
7:00 – how to exit the platform
7:30 – using the turnstiles to exit the station
I also found out that some station and area names are purely based on the location. For instance, ‘Wan’ means ‘Bay’ such as Cheung Sha Wan (meaning ‘Long Sandy Beach’). The word ‘Sha’ (meaning ‘Sand) also appears in Tsim Sha Tsui (meaning ‘Sharp Sandy Mouth’).